Men in Childcare Case Study – Stuart Harley

Stuart works at Tops Bournemouth. After being made redundant, he realised that he had a natural rapport with children. Very quickly he started enjoying working at Tops Day Nurseries and agreed to work towards his Level 3 in Childcare.

How did you get into the childcare industry? Is it something you have always wanted to do?

I was made redundant and whilst looking for another job, my wife (who works at head office), suggested I work for Tops agency as I have a natural rapport with children. Very quickly I started enjoying it and agreed to work towards my level 3.

Have you ever experienced negativity in regards to being male in the early year’s sector?

I’ve experienced a few negative moments during my time in childcare. Mainly from parents who are shocked to see a man in the nursery. It’s difficult not to focus on the barriers and stereotypes when starting a new career in the early years. Family and friends teasing, being referred to as ‘Mr. Poppy’, seeing the look from a parent and trying to work out if they think I’m gay or a risk to their child or even from female colleagues who ask me to do something because I’m a man, build something, or repairing something. One time after a child came for a settling in session and her nappy needed changing. I had just finished changing her when the parents returned, I could see that the mother looked uncomfortable when I handed her daughter back to her.  She then asked a colleague if it was allowed for a man to change the girls’ nappies. However, the majority of parents see a man in the nursery as a positive, offering a different style of interaction or even a male role model for some of the children who don’t have one.

What do you love the most about your job?

Just knowing that what I do makes a difference and building up that trust and rapport with the children.

What has been your biggest achievement in your role?

Achieving my Level 3 in childcare.

Why is it important to encourage more males to work in childcare?

Having more men in childcare can offer different approaches to learning and play, help remove barriers and stereotypes and offer more career choices for men and boys leaving school.

Do you think attitudes are changing towards employing men in nurseries? Explain your answer.

Yes, although it’s a very, very slow process and a lot more needs to be done to attract more men into the industry. Initiatives like MITEY are helping to remove the stereotypes and to promote careers in childcare and the early years as an option.

What do you think the benefits are of men working in the early years?

Men working in the early years can challenge stereotypes, such as the toys the children play with, the activities they engage in and can offer different play, such as rough-and-tumble. Children can benefit from different caring styles and approaches to things like risk-taking and challenging behaviour. More men in childcare can help redress the balance creating a more diverse workforce and increasing the talent pool.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to work in the early year’s sector?

No day is the same, it can be really hard work but really rewarding. Lose your inhibitions, find your inner child and enjoy every minute exploring and investigating with the children. Watch and learn from your colleagues, there is a wealth of knowledge you can tap into. Children are very smart, they can also teach us a thing or two!

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